Examining the Mediating Roles of Microblog Use in the Relationships between Narcissism, Social Anxiety, and Social Capital

Examining the Mediating Roles of Microblog Use in the Relationships between Narcissism, Social Anxiety, and Social Capital

Ruo Mo (School of Journalism and Communication, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shatin, Hong Kong, China), Louis Leung (School of Journalism and Communication, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shatin, Hong Kong, China), Yingqi Hao (School of Journalism and Communication, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shatin, Hong Kong, China), Xuan Wu (School of Journalism and Communication, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shatin, Hong Kong, China), Rui Xi (School of Journalism and Communication, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shatin, Hong Kong, China) and Shu Zhang (School of Journalism and Communication, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shatin, Hong Kong, China)
Copyright: © 2014 |Pages: 18
DOI: 10.4018/ijcbpl.2014040105
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Abstract

Microblog is a platform for publishing and sharing short (140 characters or less) messages with others within a user's social network – is an Internet medium that is growing exponentially and changing the way people communicate on the Internet. To explore the effect of microblogging on interpersonal relationships, this study examines the relationships between narcissism, social anxiety, and microblog use and investigates how these psychological attributes and microblog use may affect social capital. Data were gathered through an online survey of 329 young adults aged 21–30 in mainland China using snowball sampling technique. Regression results indicate the following: (1) narcissism and social anxiety are positively related to the intensity of microblog use; (2) the intensity of microblog use positively predicts both types of social capital (bridging and bonding); (3) although narcissism has a positive effect on both types of social capital, this effect is partly mediated by the intensity of microblog use; (4) social anxiety is slightly positively related to bridging social capital, and this effect is perfectly mediated by the intensity of microblog use; and (5) there is a suppression effect of the intensity of microblog use between social anxiety and bonding social capital. The effect of the intensity of microblog use suppresses the negative effect of social anxiety on bonding social capital. Details about the findings will be discussed.
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Introduction

Microblog – a platform for publishing and sharing short (140 characters or less) messages with others within a user’s social network (Murphy, 2008) – is an Internet service that is growing exponentially and changing the way people communicate online. Launched in 2006, the first microblog in the world was Twitter, which has already attracted 100 million active users (users who log in at least once a month), with half of those users signing in at least once a day (Mangalindan, 2011). In June, 2009, the Chinese government blocked Twitter and shut down a Chinese Twitter clone, Fanfou, during the sensitive 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown. However, a new Chinese version of Twitter, Sina Weibo, was launched in August, 2009. According to the report of the China Internet Network Information Centre (CNNIC), by the end of 2012, the number of internet users had reached 503 million people in mainland China, of which more than half are on Weibo (Mozur, 2013).

It is common to observe on microblogs that most of the users’ posts are about what they ate, where they traveled, what they have done, and who they were with. They are eager to express themselves to draw public attention and to show their uniqueness and superiority. Meanwhile, the ubiquitous nature of microblogging (since such sites can be accessed by mobile devices) provides a fertile ground for people to share their updates and photos with a large number of people anytime and anywhere. This phenomenon leads to the following question of interest: “Do narcissists use microblogs more often?” In order to test the assumption that those who like to present themselves use microblogs more often, we also want to examine, at the same time, whether those who are socially anxious frequently use microblogs. Thus, social anxiety was introduced in our conceptualization. Further, since microblogging is a social platform that serves to aggregate people with common interests, it is of great importance to study its effect on social capital. That is, it is important to examine whether those frequent users gain more social capital than less frequent users. Although relevant research has examined the effect of social networking services (SNSs) on social capital, few studies have focused on microblogging, the nature of which differs from SNSs. More importantly, narcissism and social anxiety (i.e., a socially impaired attribute) are two opposing extremes. Our interest is to investigate whether microblog use can, in some way, ameliorate people’s social outcomes.

Researchers have argued repeatedly that Internet effects studies should take the antecedents of online communication into account and include them in more integrative Internet uses-and-effects models (Bargh, 2002; Valkenburg & Peter, 2007). The hyperpersonal model provides a useful interpersonal communication theoretical perspective for the study of microblogging because, as a computer-mediated communication (CMC) technology, microblogging affords a host of communicative advantages over face-to-face interaction (Walther, 1996). Under the hyperpersonal framework, this study examines the impacts of narcissism and social anxiety on microblog use and how these psychological attributes and microblog use influence the perceived social capital of Weibo users in mainland China.

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